Questions to Ask On A College Tour
Dorm Rooms, Dining Halls, and Facilities
There’s a certain amount of self-assessment you need to do to create your ultimate personal campus visit checklist. That being said, I want you to take some self-inventory. Sit in your bedroom, your family’s TV room, or somewhere else that you feel you’re most “at home.”
What do you need? We’re going to take this bit by bit, from dorm rooms to on-campus services, so you can create a comprehensive list that covers all of your necessities. We’re setting up for success here, okay?
Obviously, you want to just transplant your personal bedroom and move it to your perfect college, and don’t you ever stop trying to make your dreams come true, but, until such technology is available, let’s talk about what we can do today to make your dorm room home-sweet-home.
We’re bypassing basic things like “bed” because it’s… well, it’ll be there. I'd say ask if it's comfortable, but odds are, it won't be. Bring a comfortable mattress pad. Typically you’ll also have a desk, and, in most cases, a roommate. We’re not going to discuss that plot twist now, but you can head over here to prep for that.
Here are a few things to ask about the dorm rooms themselves though:
- Are freshmen required to live on campus and/or have their own dorm building?
- What’s the average size of a dorm room? They’re all small, but you know your personal space preference. Stand in the room (or find a picture with someone in it) to get an idea of what you’re working with.
- Do I have to live in a dorm with a roommate freshman year or are there other housing options? (A single or suite?)
- Do all dorms come with air conditioning? (not all do!)
- Are the bathrooms shared, private, or communal?
- Is there a kitchen you can use in the building or on the floor? With a refrigerator and stove?
- What’s the laundry situation? On the floor? In the building? In a neighboring building? Cost?
- If something goes wrong in the dorms, say an issue with a toilet or window or whatnot, how easy is it to get a hold of the maintenance department?
- How’s the Wi-Fi?
Those basic questions will give you a good picture of the dorm. Rank the questions based on importance to you—in other words, if having access to a kitchen is unimportant to you, then don’t give it any weight.
We have to touch on dorm safety. We’ll talk about how to assess the town the college is in and whatnot later on, but let’s focus on the dorm itself for right now. You want to feel comfortable where you’re sleeping, so don’t hesitate to ask any and every question that pops into your head.
- Are the dorms co-ed? Are there floors for either male- or female-identifying students? Are they placed in different houses?
- Is there an LGBTQIA-friendly dorm?
- Are their gender-neutral bathrooms on campus?
- Is there a front desk where people have to check in?
- Is there a key card needed to get into each building?
- Are there RAs on each floor?
- Is there security that will give me a lift to my room if I’m feeling unsafe or nervous?
- Are there patrols around the dorms 24/7?
- Is there a workout room in the building or nearby?
- Are their music practice rooms?
- Is there access to a computer lab?
- Where is the nearest place to grab food?
Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I don’t think you should attend a college until you’ve had their cuisine. This isn’t just a meal or two—this is four years of food that your stomach has to digest. If you can tuck in for a lunch while visiting the college campus, I highly encourage that you do it.
Depending on the size of the school, there are going to be different food options. Larger schools will typically have several dining options while smaller schools will likely feel a little bit more limited. If you have any sort of diet requirements or restrictions, you need to ask about how they accommodate them.
- How many dining options are there?
- What style of dining is it?
- Are there “types” of food choices? A grill? A salad bar? Sandwiches?
- What hours are the dining halls open?
- Is there a convenience store or other place to grab snacks?
- Does the nearby town have food specials for students?
Personally, I wish I’d asked any of these questions before choosing my school. I ultimately moved off campus for the final two years of my college life 50% because of the food. I desperately needed a kitchen and something that hadn’t been frozen for a month before being thrown on a greasy grill.
Plus, meal plans typically aren’t cheap. Talk openly about them with your guide. They can add a fair chunk to your college cost depending on how you want to structure your plan.
- What are the meal options? (They typically work on a number of meals per week, 12, 15, 19…)
- Is a meal plan required for a number of years?
Check out the meal schedule for the week. It’s typically available on the dining hall website, or it may even be posted on-site. Hey, you need to live for the next four years. Sustenance is key.
You want to see where you’ll be learning. The classroom buildings will say a lot about where the school allocates its funds. While colleges will always be amidst “updates” due to constant usage, you can tell the difference between something being in constant use and disrepair.
If you know or are relatively sure of your major, ask to see the buildings for that subject in particular. It’s where you’ll likely be spending most of your time, so it makes sense to scrutinize those buildings most closely.
Things to notice:
- What kind of technology is available in the classrooms?
- What’s the general quality of the building? Would you be comfortable hanging around it for most of the day?
- Are there communal areas that you can study in between classes?
- Not to be that person, but what’s the plug situation? Laptops need electricity.
- Is it near the dorms or dining halls?
Other places you’ll want to check out will include:
- Fitness center
- Campus bookstore
- Sports stadiums
- Parking lots (both for students and visitors)
- “The quad” or typical student gathering spots
It’s part of the facilities, but, yes, it receives its own section. The library is important no matter what your major, and not always just for academics. You need to get out of your dorm room every now and again, but you need somewhere to go that you can study. Libraries can be a good place to do that.
Take a look around.
- Can students reserve cubicles to study in?
- Are there study rooms where you can go to work on projects in groups?
- Is there a subscription section for magazines? Scholarly or otherwise?
- How many printers are there? Does it cost anything to print?
Okay, once you have the general layout, you also have to ask a few harder questions. The physical appearance of a library doesn’t mean all that much, I’m sad to say. There’s more that needs to be determined.
- Crack a few spines. How recent are the books?
- How often does the library receive new books?
- How many books are there?
- What’s the trading library like? You can often request books from other libraries that are in the network, but what’s the timeline like?
- Is there an online book database?
For extra credit, Google a few reputable books in your major that are semi-recent and see if they’re in the library, or at least easily attainable. If they’re available, it’s very likely that this library is top-notch, which is exactly what you want when you have big papers that need long bibliographies due.
Okay. I’ve given you a lot to chew on here. Digest it, ruminate on it, categorize it, work on your personal campus visit checklists, and then move along to the next article in the series: The Ultimate Checklist for Campus Visits (Academics, On-Campus Services, and the Surrounding Town).
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